Durango

John B. Keane, Author
John B. Keane, Author Mercier Press $19.95 (329p) ISBN 978-1-85635-001-3
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Germany has just annexed Czechoslovakia, but to a group of Irish small farmers the dawning wartime economy means higher prices for their livestock. They provoke the wrath of the local traders by boycotting the Tubberlick cattle fair and driving their collective herd 35 miles over wild terrain to reap the greater profits at Trallock. Along the route, the cattle are imperiled by the boggy, uncertain conditions and the men by the murderous attacks of the traders. Nevertheless, the novel's tone is rambunctious and high-spirited, and the characters--with names like Bessie Lie-Down--tend toward a cheerful two-dimensionality. The best scenes involve fighting and drinking and manly camaraderie, while the least credible ones involve sex and romance. (At the center of Trallock is the Durango Bar, presided over by an improbably licentious, beauteous pair of septuagenarian sisters with a penchant for teenage boys.) A serious note filters through in the person of Mark Doran, the shrewd leader of the cattle drive and of the political movement that is its outgrowth. He provides a neat case study of one man as inspiration for grass-roots change. Overall, hyper-energized characters and action combine with substance to produce an entertaining kaleidoscope of a book. Keane wrote The Field. (Nov.)
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